Thursday, 2 May 2013

Questions (67)

Michael McGrath

Question:

67. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he is concerned that errors in compiling the list of liable persons for the local property tax could result in Revenue making an incorrect deduction from a person's salary or State benefit payment from 1 July; the procedure that will apply to correct such occurrences if they arise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21025/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

A key aspect of the work undertaken by Revenue for the Local Property Tax (LPT) was the development of a comprehensive Register of residential properties in the State. The Register was developed using data drawn from a range of sources including Revenue’s own databases, the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) database and data from utility companies. Data from the various sources has been cross-checked to ensure that the Register is as accurate as possible. As previously indicated to the House, the Register was used to issue LPT correspondence to property owners. While the Commissioners have made every effort to correctly match residential properties to owners, they have clearly stated that, in a small number of cases, some individuals who are not liable persons will have received LPT Returns in error. This may have occurred, for example, where landlords are not registered with the Private Residential Tenancy Board which caused the tenant to receive the Return; in cases where a person paid the Household Charge for another person; or in cases where a person's address on Revenue's database is out of date.

The Commissioners have stressed the importance of not ignoring the LPT Return. A person who received an LPT Return but who is not the liable person in respect of the stated property, has been advised to notify Revenue in writing that they are not the liable person, who the liable person is, and to provide supporting documentation where available. This will ensure that the LPT Register can be corrected and no further correspondence will issue to the person in respect of the LPT liability for the property. I am advised that individuals who have received LPT Returns in error are contacting Revenue and the Register is being updated accordingly.

However, where individuals fail to notify Revenue, they are likely to be included in the compliance campaign which is expected to commence in the second half of June with a view to deductions beginning in July. The compliance campaign will initially focus on pursuing payment of the Revenue Notice of Estimate through mandatory deduction at source from employment income and occupational pensions.

Prior to any such mandatory deductions taking place, individuals who have not engaged with the LPT process will receive a compliance reminder. Individuals who receive a compliance reminder from Revenue in June, and who are not the liable person in respect of the property but have failed to notify Revenue of this, will have a very short final opportunity, probably no more than a few days, to contact Revenue to provide the details of the liable person and to allow Revenue to update the Register.

Some public comment suggests that non-liable persons may be deciding, or may be being advised or even encouraged not to contact Revenue and not to tell Revenue who is the owner of the property. I consider this to be irresponsible advice. The law provides that if a person is on the LPT Register s/he is liable for the tax. Furthermore, from a practical point of view, this is not a good idea. As long as Revenue continues to connect an individual with a particular property, s/he will be pursued for payment. Against a background of non-engagement, or engagement which is simply too late, mandatory deduction at source will inevitably take place in some cases where the person is not liable for LPT.

The Commissioners have assured me that where an incorrect mandatory deduction at source has commenced, arrangements will be made in due course to cancel it and to refund the LPT deducted, once details of the correct liable person are advised to them and have been validated. Clearly, this is a situation which Revenue would prefer to avoid. It will create unnecessary inconvenience for people who are not liable, unnecessary work for employers and Revenue and arrangements for refunds will take time.

However, I am very satisfied that as part of Revenue’s communications around the general issue of LPT Returns, the Commissioners sought to forewarn taxpayers that errors may occur and to provide very clear guidance on the steps that should be taken in these cases. I am also satisfied that opportunities are being provided to individuals, who receive an LPT Return and who are not liable persons, to notify Revenue of the correct liable person so as avoid an incorrect deduction.